Nigerian aviation industry can contribute 14 percent to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) and create 100,000 direct and 100,000 indirect jobs between now and 2019 instead of the 0.4 percent contribution it is making currently, if the government makes Nigeria aviation hub in West Africa.
Also, for the industry to make a leap, the Federal Government must quickly unveil a clear road map that will drive development of the sector.
Nogie Meggison, chairman, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), who made the submission when the association paid a courtesy visit on Hadi Sirika, minister of state for aviation, rolled out some of the issues hampering the smooth running of the sector.
The challenges confronting aviation industry are due to economic meltdown to policy issues. Accessing foreign exchange to pay bills is becoming a challenge. More worrisome is the fact that foreign carriers are giving more priority in accessing FX than the domestic carriers, said Meggison.
Cancellation and delays in flight schedules have been a recurrent issue in Nigerian aviation sector. This, the AON attributed chiefly to irregularities in the availability of aviation oil also known as jet A1, and appealed to the government to facilitate the operation of the Warri refinery to ease the situation.
“Only last week, almost 50 percent of flights were delayed or cancelled as a result of difficulties accessing jet A1,” Meggison said.
In making Nigeria the hub of aviation in West Africa, Meggison harped on the need to initiate a 24-hour operation in Nigerian airports as well as upgrade of the landing and navigational aids in line with international and industry standards.
Implementation of the import duty and VAT waiver on commercial aircrafts and spare parts importation is another item the airliners noted could spur growth.
“VAT revenue generated from commercial airline operators should be exempted from VAT, just as international transport into Nigeria are not subjected to VAT,” he said.
On insurance, the airline operators noted with dismay that the NAICOM Act compelling operators to use indigenous underwriters who obviously lacked the capacity was a clog in their wheel.
In his response, the minister admitted that the 14 percent touted by the airliners was achievable and pledges to collaborate with all stakeholders in making the sector more viable.
On the issue of FX, he denied knowledge of the alleged priority given to foreign carriers by CBN, but pledged to take up the matter with the CBN and minister of finance.
“Nigerian businesses must be promoted first before any other business,” the minister said.
He, however, assured that the ministry would ensure that all carriers get their dues.